Gene McKamey, known as the first football coach at Piner High School and remembered as the man who gave his athletes a ride home when they needed, died Feb. 26 after suffering declining health for many years. He was 82.
Born June 14, 1931, in Judsonia, Ark., Robert Eugene McKamey was youngest of four children born to Ethel and Clarence McKamey. After Clarence McKamey died and the older children were no longer living at home, Gene Mc-Kamey and his mother moved west to Sonoma County where Ethel became a cook, housekeeper and baby sitter.
"It was tough, but they managed," said Della Mc-Kamey, Gene McKamey's wife of nearly four decades.
McKamey graduated from Sonoma Valley High, where he played football. He played at Napa Junior College before heading to Humboldt State University, where he was an all-conference lineman. He graduated with a teaching degree and in 1953 wed Eleanor Otis. That marriage ended in divorce.
McKamey served in the U.S. Army until 1957 and then embarked on a career of teaching and coaching that began in South Fork before going through Terra Nova and eventually Santa Rosa.
An all-around athlete, McKamey coached football, baseball, wrestling and golf over the course of his career.
In 1966, he took a job at the brand new Piner High School, where he would remain a coach until 1982 and a teacher until 1992.
When he began with the Prospectors, athletic fields were not yet built.
"They practiced at the El Rancho (Tropicana Hotel). It was kind of tough," Della McKamey said.
"He was a little bit old school," said his son, Matt McKamey of Santa Rosa. "He wasn't really a yeller, but just always respected."